Stillers 47, Lions 14���. Dec. 23rd, 2001 ����Game #14
Stillers-Lions Postgame Analysis and Grades
The Stillers moved to 12-2 and clinched a first-round bye with an easy laugher over the hapless, toothless Lions, 47-14. I myself wasn�t quite sure what to expect from the 1-12 Lions, but after this game I have a pretty good idea of why, and how, the Lions have lost 13 games this season. This will be a fairly abbreviated version of my usually lengthy postgame report, because, quite frankly, this game was no more difficult than if the Stillers had faced a mediocre college team, such a Lions team from Penn State. The Lions were in briefly in this game, only to cave in and roll over while the Stiller express steamrolled them en route to the Stillers� highest point total this season.
1. Porter sacks & strips McMahon, and Gildon picks up the forced fumble and runs 27-yard for a TD.
2. On the Stillers� first series, Troy makes a superb catch on 3rd &22, gaining 23 yards.
3. Smith sacks & strips MCMahon, ad Earl Holmes recovers the fumble deep in Lion territory.
4. Stewart scrambles 19 yards, setting up Ward�s 5-yard TD pass 33 plays later.
5. Sloan snares a TD pass on 3rd & goal at the 1, making it 27-14.
6. Fu catches a screen and busts 3 tackles en route to a 54-yard gain.
7. Plex hauls in a 19-yard TD pass.
QB: Stew had another solid outing. His TD passes to Cushing, Ward, and Burress (imagine, 3 TD passes in one game!!) were all good throws. The 19-yard scamper was good, too. And Stew was victimized by 3 drops by Burress, including 2 sure TD passes. On the other side of the coin, Stew committed some boners. The one sack was a foolhardy "acceptance" of a sack. Stew rolled right, and with no oneopen, held the ball and continued to drift to his right. Finally, with a defender bearing down on him, Stew ate the ball and took the sack, losing 12 yards. The reason this was such a poor play, was that Stewart was well outside the plan of the TE, and as such, could have easily flung the ball at the yard marker and hit an assistant coach over on the sidelines, without fear of an intentional grounding call. McMahon committed this same boner late in the game on Gildon�s sack, but McMahon is a rookie making his 3rd NFL start, and is still getting a feel for the NFL game. Stewart is in his 7th NFL season. The forced lob to Shaw in the EZ midway thru the 3Q, which could have easily been INT�d, was ill-advised and basically stupid. In a tight playoff game, that kind of forced-in slop -- as occurred in the last playoff game this Stillers franchise played in -- could result in disaster. There were also a few other spotty, shoddy throws as well. But on the whole, Stew completed some clutch passes and threw with good zip and accuracy. A-.
RB: Fu got another start and had by far his best game ever of his injury-riddled 4-year career. He rushed for 126 yards on 26 carries, and chipped in the 54-yard screen-pass reception. Although the Fu-man tends to run a bit too upright at times, he ran hard, busted some tackles, and plowed for extra yardage. Amoz played only sparingly and had just 2 carries, though he did rip off a splendid 30-yard run. RJ Bowers got into the game in mop-up and carried 7 times for 17 yards. My only regret in this blowout was that Bowers -- who might never get a chance to tote the ball again in an NFL game -- didn�t get a chance to score an NFL TD. A.
FB: Kreider and Witman split time again at FB. Kreider ran the ball impressively on 2 line plunges, and overall blocked better at the point of attack. B.
WR: Today Ward set the new Stiller team record for receptions in a single season, and together he and Burress set the new team record for combined receptions by a WR duo in a season. Ward had 7 grabs, including a 20-yarder, a 5-yard TD, and an excellent catch on a low out that was snared just above the grass. Plex had a great nudge and grab of a 19-yard loft to the goal line for his TD. He also held onto one deep crosser in which he miraculously snared the ball with his hands and held on despite a brutal hit. But Durress regressed in a couple key areas today. He dropped 2 TD passes, both on very catchable lobs to the end zone on plays where he was clearly "above" the nearest defender and had both hands on the ball, only to clumsily fight the ball off and drop it both times. On the first, in fact, Plex was also called for Offensive PI. And 2 plays after the first D drop, Plex dropped an easy out pass. And adding salt to the wound, Burress was, for about the 6th time this season, whistled for a false start penalty � something that is totally inexcusable for a WR to commit as this level. Troy Edwards had a very strong game, making 2 clutch 3rd down receptions in the first quarter to sustain the drive that led to the Stillers� 2nd TD. The catch he made on the deep out on 3rd & 22 was as good as any catch by any Stiller this season, and hopefully will boost Troy�s confidence as we head into the playoffs. Plex�s boners ruin any chance at an "A" grade. A-.
TE: Backup TE Matt Cushing caught 2 passes, including a 4-yard TD pass. Hey, with production like that, who needs the mega-millionaire, Mark Bruener? Tuman started and played a variety of TE, WB, and FB. The blocking was adequate. B+.
OL: The O-line had a solid day against the porous Lion defense. Faneca had a strong overall game. Gandy and Hartings played pretty well. Tylski didn�t dress, so Ross got the start, and he later got injured, so Keydrick Vincent played some at RG. Smith was flagged for a holding that negated Amos� 17-yard scamper. The overall protection was decent. B+.
DL: This gang wreaked a lot of havoc on the Lions offense today. Smith and Kimo were particularly active and disruptive, but Hampton was around the ball quite a bit and had 4 assists. Smith sack & strip was another strong play in what has been a strong season for him. Any O-line that starts Bendan PigStai is obviously pretty piss-poor, but this was a good overall effort from the D-line. A.
LB: Stat-wise, Jason Gildon led the way with 6 solos, 2 sacks, and a fumble return for a TD. Looked at more closely, of course, and there�s more that meets the eye. For starters, the NFL.com play-by-play credits The Dong with 5 solos and assists, but the stats sheet gives him 6 solos and no assists. Moreover, Gildon garnered one sack when McMahon inexplicably fell flat on his face with nary a defender around him, and Jason -- who�d been ridden wide and easily handled on the play � was the first to touch the QB and thus got the Dong sack. Jason collected another meaningless Dong sack with less than a minute remaining to play after Smith flushed McMahon from the pocket and McMahon foolishly held onto the ball rather than throwing it away. And Jason had another meaningless solo on the very next play. In all, Jason had 4 of his 5 solos in which he was let totally unblocked, or near-totally untouched, or, in the case of the one sack, the QB tripped over a yard-line and flat onto his face. Even on the fumble recovery, Jason was easily handled and bandied about by RT Matt Joyce. Give Jason credit, though -- in the first quarter, he actually fought off a block and made a tackle on a run off-tackle, the first time this has occurred all season. Jason was also flagged for lining up offsides, and was easily skirted by failing to maintain containment, resulting in McMahon�s 22-yard scramble around right end. Joey Porter made a tremendous play on the sack & strip, which resulted in the TD return. Bell and Holmes both made good, solid stops on some Lion running plays. A.
DB: DeWayne was beaten for a couple decent gainers, but also had the easy Dong-like INT on the poor McMahon pass forced by Flowers� blitz. DW was also flagged for PI. Chad bit badly on one pump fake, but luckily the pass was overthrown. Brent was a bit slow on picking up the "handoff" of TE David Sloan on the first Lions� TD, and Lee was slow and lethargic in whiffing on Sloan at the LOS and then getting abused for Sloan�s 2nd TD. B.
Spec teams: For once, the coverage was adequate. But Kristina Brown missed from horribly from 48 and 38 yards, and nearly missed from 31 yards. He also missed a PAT, although the snap was poor and the hold and timing were off, so I can�t throw the blame for that miss on Brown. To his credit, Kris actually got some distance, and height, on his Kos. Troy had a nice 15-yard punt return, and also had a good hustle-play to grab a returner from behind. Brent was flagged for a block to the back on a punt return. C+.
OC: Mularkey could have had Richard Nixon�s nearest living relative calling plays, and it wouldn�t have mattered against this hapless Lions team. To his credit, Mularkey called for took downfield stabs on 3rd & long, which resulted in key conversions on 3rd & 22 and 3rd & 11. It�s amazing how much easier it is to convert on those situations, when you actually throw the ball beyond the marker. Mularkey also is finally grasping the obvious in getting the lob to Burress in the end zone. Last year, that play was called ONCE all season. Today alone, it was called 3 times, and all 3 times it could have been an easy TD if only Burress were coached on how to properly catch a football. Mularkey�s most egregious boner today was the 4th qtr. playcall on 3rd & 8 from the Detroit 12, which was the overly popular screen pass to Fu that lost a yard. Screen plays on the 12 yard line are like submarines with screen doors -- nice idea on paper, but generally wrought with overt stupidity when tried in practice. Even more shameful was the fact that, in such a blowout win, the Stillers had a golden opportunity to allow Stewart the chance to complete a pass to any of his WRs for a TD, which would have given both the QB and the WR a huge boost of confidence if the pass were converted. Instead, Mularkey calls for the myopic, chickenshit RB screen. B.
DC: Tim Lewis lives a charmed life. After a season thus far of nearly always facing one pathetic offense after another, Lewis gets to face a greenhorn rookie QB making his 3rd NFL start, and the starting RB goes down to injury early in the game. The D provided some good rpessure and heat and didn�t get too soft. B+.
HC: Credit Cowher for not allowing a let-down, and for keeping the team focused for this pitiful Lions team. The immense question mark of Kris Brown�s continued ineptitude at placekicking rests squarely on Little Billy, who staunchly refused to even consider the thought of looking at another kicker, and has now painted himself into a corner just a few weeks from the playoffs. Brown�s shot confidence and overall inaccuracy demands that another alternative be explored -- especially with the fondness any Cowher playoff team has in settling for FGs -- but the mule-stubborn Cowher has staunchly insisted that nothing of that kind will even be considered. One other annoyance today was Cowher�s asinine refusal to get some young guys playing time in garbage time of this blowout. We�re up by 33 points and a young guy like LB Clark Haggans has his ass stapled to the bench. Not only does this do absolutely nothing to develop a guy who could be a front-runner for a starting job next year if free agency creates a void, but a starter could be lost for the playoffs due to an injury in garbage time. B.
Synopsis: This win secures us a first-round bye and moves us closer to home-field throughout the playoffs. Still, I can�t get too fired up over beating such a hapless JV team like the Lions. To be sure, there were some very solid individual performances, to include Troy, Stewart, Fu, Ward, and the d-line. I�m not one to get caught up doing a lot of frothing, fawning, and glad-handing over a laugher win against such a hapless JV opponent. These next two games present chances of fairly easy wins (Clev. being more difficult than Cinci) and more importantly, the chance to work on the slow leaks that need to be addressed and improved before we embark on the playoffs.
Final note: Due to Christmas Day, and my associated commitments and travel, expect delays in the Hard Hat and GilDong Report this week.